Branded Online Community: Target Demographic?

Do you ever have two-sided arguments with yourself? I do. Often. Does that make me nuts? I sure hope so. (The nutty ones are always more interesting).

Anyway, so my problem within the last few months is this: Target Demographic of a book/cartoon series VS wide ranging fans in an online forum format.

Unlike many tween branded communities these days, we actually break that fourth wall and allow them to interact with “Us”— EEHQ (as a vague entity that runs the website & works within the hallowed halls that creates their favorite branded entertainment). I love this. Why? Because the audience has our ear & attention. They KNOW they are being “heard” and acknowledged and respected. <– I’m telling you, this is the way of the future.

U13, and more importantly the tweeners, are a sticky set to work with. Why? Because it takes CONSTANT diligence & vigilance (Oh, Mad-eye, I wish I had you sitting on my desk to yell at my whim) if you’re going to give them any room to grow & own the space.

They are so WONDERFULLY unpredictable. In fact, they are predictably unpredictable. They don’t know what they want, but they know they want what they can’t have. They want to be adults without the responsibility. They want to be unique without being singled out. They want life to be fair, but not when they’re trying to push rules. They don’t want you to look at them until you’re not looking at them, and then it’s quite the opposite. Oh, to be 9 – 13 again.

So what I’ve really grappled with lately is the idea of: Tween online community life takes a lot of attention & energy… and it REALLY forces you to put up high walls of safety to keep their tween insanity safe within (both for their own protection for others and from others).  How does that effect your entire fan base–outside the tween demographic?

When you have a book & cartoon series that pinpoints the “clever 11 year old” — you really need to pay attention to +2 and -2 years around that identified age. The series was made for them, it’s their world to play in.

The trouble: fans range far beyond the target demographic. Like Harry Potter & The Chronicles of Narnia & The His Dark Materials books— there is a WIDE appeal to adventure/fantasy/fun/dark/humor/subculture, etc.

When building an online community or a virtual world– it’s easy to fall into the trap of singling out a certain demographic as being the ideal members. And with U13, it becomes a mission to protect those kids from the rest of the big-bad-world… and what I’ve realized is that– by putting my “Eye of Mordor” on this mission, I’m cutting out the rest of the fans who enjoy this series and would like to continue the adventure online.

If you decide to break that 4th wall of communication, you HAVE to pay direct attention to the fans if you plan on building a communication-based environment. Do you risk alienating the older demographic in hopes to retain & appease the target? Or do you double the effort to make an environment that appeals to young, old, fankid, newbie, goofball, serious, etc. That’s quite a fete.

What I’ve come to realize in the last month (especially) is that it is a balancing act, a priority chart, a slight of hand, and a whole lot of charisma.

It’s kind of exciting to have epiphanies like this. You work so hard for so long just trying to identify and define what it takes to work with kids SAFELY while retaining that fun factor. The sketchiness of the world really closes in– and you see how others make their choices. Sweet Heyzeus (yes I know that’s not how it’s spelled, lol), my Eye of Mordor has focused soo intently on Tween Online Safety that I’m sure the whole concept has a really nice tan at this point. But once you make peace with your understanding & have confidence, you can really start to focus efforts on how to make a Tween-oriented book/cartoon/brand series also available to fandom in general, while keeping everything safe and fun and worthwhile. Oh living, learning, growing… ain’t it fantabulous?

We’re trying to push some BIG changes down the pipeline for E&E’s community (which is just a speckle in the eye of the grand design). Let’s just hope it works the way I want it to– hahahaha. I can honestly say, I don’t know too many brands that have broken that 4th wall for the youngin’s. Why? Because it ain’t easy. Hahaha. But that’s a ramble I’ll save for a blog topic based on The Yays and Woes of Staffing an Online Community for Tweens.

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  1. May 29, 2007 at 3:13 pm

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